Zachary awoke to the dim light slipping in through the large window within his personal suite. Today was special or so people told him. It was his birthday, he had despised them since he was a child, on his birth he never had a second to himself, and he had to feast or socialize or be congratulated from first light until the stroke of midnight. He hated that he was surrounded by more fake friends than usual, and he could never act as he wanted to. Although this happened every day, all Zachary's resentment seemed to be pent-up for his birthday. What he wouldn't do to be able to stay in bed longer, play with his precious terriers and celebrate with the few people he actually like and respected. But such is the duty of the king.

Zachary had just finished dressing when he noticed that his wife was not present, surely she should have been here with him on this day. The doors swung open and in walked a dear friend, Laren Mapstone captain of the green riders.

"Good morning moonling!" She exclaimed as she handed Zachary a small package.

"What's so good about it?" He sulked, as he rattled the package.

"Oh, don't pout. It's not befitting of a king."

Zachary opened his package to find some dragon drops, he loved them. "And this is what you give your king?" He said jokingly.

"If you want a kingly gift, pay me a kingly salary."

"Laren, must I do this again, so soon?"

"Yes sir, birthdays do tend to be an annual event." She said as she straightened his shirt and fussed over him like a big sister would.

"Have you seen Estora?"

"No sir, but she shall join us in the throne room. All your most important appointments today have been moved to the morning, so you can enjoy your birthday." She escorted him out of his room as they walked to the throne room.

"At this point I think I'd rather appointments all day, at least they tell me up front what they want from me."

The day passed slowly as he thought all the fun he could have if he was just a simple lord of Hillander province, but alas he was stuck inside the walls of Sacor city. He wondered what it would be like to be free from it all, which brought his thoughts to her. The love of his life Karigan, he wondered what she was doing; it was the tenth hour so she must be practicing with arms master Drent. The day continued ever so slowly, he searched for her face every chance he had but it was too no avail. His heart sank lower and lower as the day drew on until the eventual night.

The festivities in his honour were grand just as they had been every year since he had taken the throne, he had Estora by his side the whole evening, when he asked where she had been throughout the day she responded with it was a surprise and that he'd have to wait and see. Estora was beautiful and she was kind and Zachary wished with all his heart that he could love as he should, but he could not. The night went on and on as Zachary watched while everyone else enjoyed his birthday more than he did.

It was the eleventh hour when Estora pulled Zachary out of the celebrations, something he was both happy and mystified about. Estora led him down the dusty forgotten hallways of the castle.

"Where are we going?"

"To your birthday present, that I spent the day arranging."

"Estora, why is it in a dust corridor?"

"Because it's a secret, here we are." They stood in front of a rather unexciting door, guarding it were two of Zachary's most trusted weapons, Fastion and Donald. They stood silent as ever and Zachary wondered why weapons were needed to protect his present.

"What is it?"

"You'll have to look and see, I'll be returning to the party, I'll see you tomorrow Zachary, the ninth hour." She quickly kissed him on the cheek.

"Aren't you coming with me to see?"

"No I think this is a gift you'd rather fully appreciate, on your own."

"Why aren't you coming back until the morning?"

"To give to a chance to fully enjoy, your present." She said as she strode back up the hall, a slight spring in her step.

Zachary reached for the handled, pulled the door open and looked at his present, how had she known.